Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sucker Punched

I woke up alone in my bed and in my house for the first time since February 12. It was a rather eerie feeling, if I’m being completely honest…I didn’t like it at all. While I sometimes complain about my wiggly little 3-year-old bed buddy, he brings me a new level of comfort…at least for now. While I longed for some time away from my children so I could get some very important things done, distraction-free, I actually missed them…especially the sounds of their laughter, arguments, “mommy, mommy, mommy” calling, and the constant question, “May I have a snack?” I think our time apart, albeit difficult, was good for us both in many ways.

For me, I’ve been struggling to truly grieve. I’ve had a few moments, but nothing like I fear is around the corner. I don’t recall suppressing grief like I’ve done so often this time around, but I think I’m just trying to protect our children and not frighten them.

Sometime Tuesday, late in the morning, after the home health nurse had already been here for the day, I was in my home office working on our our taxes (yes – at the last possible minute), something literally gnawed at my chest. I thought I might have been having a heart attack, or a panic attack (at minimum). I couldn’t catch my breath. I literally felt I had been sucker punched and held up against the wall and couldn’t move, and then I sensed that inner voice saying quite clearly…

Let it go, Leah. Let it all go.

I knew the Holy Spirit was trying to get me to cry. I could sense the tears welling up in my eyes. I could feel a painful, burning sensation all over my body, as I tried to keep it at bay, at least for now. But, the voice wouldn’t stop.

Let it go, my child. I will catch every tear. I want you to be real with Me!

I no longer could hold back. My shoulders started heaving, the tears starting flowing at a very fast rate, I started violently shaking, and then I began to loudly moan. That was soon followed by words…questions…affirmations…doubts coupled with things I knew to be sure. I was literally screaming as I walked from room to room in this house. Things like,

“I’m almost to the 10-week mark, Lord, and I feel I’m getting nowhere.”

…heaving sobs

“I’m just so, so sad. I feel like nothing can pull me out of this deep, dark depression. You could drop a million dollars onto my lap, and I’d be happy for you to take it back, because it’s meaningless to me right now. It won’t bring my Joel back.

…dropping to the floor, banging my fist over and over onto the hardwoods

“You’ve got to help me God! I don’t know what to do next. Each step hurts.”

…laying down briefly and rolling from my back to my side over and over

“This pain is more than I can bear. You’ve asked me to endure so much, Lord. So, so much! When is it going to stop? Is this my lot in life? Just one trial after another? Please, Lord…when will you allow me to catch my breath?”

The questions stopped, and I crawled back into my recliner and sobbed, loud moaning sobs. I don’t know when they ended. But, when they did, I was spent. I crawled into bed and went sound to sleep.

I think God brought me right to the place where He wanted me. To a place of anger, hurt, and the ability to simply grieve…REAL, long-overdue grief. It’s not over. The pain is still fast upon me. I ache. I hurt all over. At times, I’m very productive. At others, I do nothing but sit. But…He knows…

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.”

Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Gentle Tap

Weekday mornings were always a struggle for Joel and me to greet with great enthusiasm. We brought this dilemma upon ourselves, as we typically stayed up entirely too late the night before doing projects in our new home, unpacking (yes…I’m still doing so after six months), or watching whatever TV series we were into at the time on Netflix. Whatever the reason, we became “Night Owls”, by default which led to early morning wake-up struggles.

Joel was not a fan of the snooze button. He didn’t want to become a slave to it, so he always turned his alarm off as soon as it went off the first time and then began the “chore” of waking me up. Now…don’t get me wrong…I’m fully capable of waking up (with an alarm) on my own, but I also knew my hubby was right beside me, and it was a lot more fun being awakened by him each morning than that obnoxious noise coming from my phone.

He would begin by simply moving in closer to me and maybe put his arm around me. That always woke me up, but it certainly didn’t give me the desire to get up (although I didn’t tell him that)…it made me want to snuggle in all that much deeper and lay there for as long as I could.

If that didn’t cause me to get up (and, it rarely did), he would start gently tapping me on my shoulder. Depending on my response, the gentle taps might lead to firmer taps which would ultimately lead to annoying back-to-back taps. If I ever got to that point, I knew I pushed the limit a bit too far and better put some speed to my movements and get going. But, he never yelled at me or pushed me to get up…aways gentle. The price was always mine to pay if I chose to wait to the zero hour to actually start getting ready, but in hindsight, I can say it was always 100% worth it, because I never realized how soon I’d lose him and that precious morning ritual. I’d do almost anything to get that back and Joel, too, of course.

You can only imagine my surprise yesterday morning. My alarm went off, and I pushed snooze. I knew I had one snooze built into my time before I had to go unlock the kitchen door to let my morning helper in to come get the kids ready for school. Suddenly, I felt that gentle tapping on my shoulder. It literally took my breath away. I whispered, “Joel?” Of course, no response. I turned to look to see if Austyn was awake, and he was sound asleep with his hands nowhere near my back or shoulder.

I just had to smile. Somehow…God gave me that gift yesterday morning. The tap on my shoulder. My wake up call. It may have been totally in my mind, but He allowed what was in my mind to manifest itself in the physical, and made Joel feel so near again. Oh how I needed that gentle tap yesterday morning. Thank you Father for being in the details!

#HeIsStillGood

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Eight Weeks

It’s been eight weeks since Joel went home to Heaven. Eight weeks. I can’t believe he’s been gone that long. And yet…it’s really just been a short amount of time. I guess the days just feel so long. I haven’t reached the point in my grief journey yet where the days fly by. Oh…how I wish I were there.

Part of the reason is because of my temporary health crisis following my three foot surgeries in March. I’m still bound to a recliner for most of the day with a wound vac attached to my foot that has to remain elevated on two pillows for the bulk of the day. For some reason, God allowed this to happen and so soon after Joel’s death. I have yet to understand this. But, He is sovereign and knows the big picture. I trust Him completely. I still hurt.

I have way too much time on my hands sitting in this recliner. Too much time to think. Too many memories to drift back to, and too much time to cry. While crying can be healing, I feel like I do entirely too much of it. Every time someone comes to visit, and we start talking about my love, I can hardly get two to three words out before the tears start falling. I miss him terribly. Here they go again…I can’t write about him without crying. Unless you’ve been in similar shoes, there’s no way you can possibly understand this type of pain. I would rather someone cut off my leg…both of my legs, for that matter…than be without my best friend, my husband, my love, the daddy to our children. As harsh as that sounds, I can’t imagine how that type of pain could hurt this badly. Physical pain can heal…pain of the heart…always exists.

From experience, I know it won’t feel this painful all the time. I know there will be good days in my future. I know I’ll be able to genuinely smile and laugh again. I know my children will heal as well. I know my purpose in this pain will be established. I know God will use my pain. I know God will use Joel’s death for His glory.

While I know all of these things to be true…it doesn’t stop the ache I feel in the center of my core at this very time. I want it to go away. I hate feeling this way. I hate being this sad. I look for joy, because I long for it.

Oh God…Help me this day! Protect my bleeding and broken heart. Restore my joy! Show me something to smile about today. I desperately need You! My hurt is overwhelming me today. 

#HeIsStillGood

Friday, March 24, 2017

Shattered. Fractured. Broken.

Shattered. Fractured. Broken. Three words that accurately describe my family right now.

Just under two months ago, we were doing this thing called life together as a family. We made our mistakes, and we had our fusses, but we were what we dubbed ourselves…a “normal” (albeit blended, non-organic) family.

Daddy and mommy both worked outside the home. We were as healthy as we had been in quite some time. Our Bulgarian children were finally starting to adjust to the beginning of their second year in the US in our family, and our move to Hickory was proving to be a great decision, and the school transitions were taking place extremely well. Granted…we still had stuff in boxes to unpack…but, what was the hurry? This was going to be our forever home, so didn’t that mean we had “forever” to unpack?

Our older children seemed to be thriving between finishing up the last years of high school, working towards college degrees, working hard at jobs God has them in for this season of life, creating families of their own, and maturing into fine young adults.

We preferred to spend our weekday evenings wrestling around on the floor with daddy, watching a cute family movie together, doing homework, getting everything together for the next day, bath/shower time, and reading books before bedtime. We had recently started asking Josiah to read a book before bedtime to his siblings so he good get in some additional reading practice. Life wasn’t perfect, but it was nice, and we were immensely blessed.

Our weekends were full of piling into the minivan, putting a movie in the DVD player (such a wonderful feature!!) and heading out for a day full of errands. Usually we would splurge and eat out for one of our Saturday meals, and the kids loved that.

Sundays mornings were spent visiting the churches in the area, as we narrowed down the selection to where we felt God might be calling us to serve. And…one of my favorite parts of the weekend…Sunday afternoons. We rested. Joel usually fell asleep on the couch with Austyn. Josiah would fall asleep on the other end of the couch while watching a movie. Benjamin and Katerina would typically nap up in their bedrooms, and me? Well…I may or may not take a nap, but I’d rest nonetheless.

Now…life feels like a chaotic, shattered mess. The kids’ emotions are completely out of whack (so are mine, for that matter). Their ability to focus seems gone. Limits are being tested. Erratic behavior is more commonplace. I cry so much that the act of crying is starting to hurt. My heart seems to be bleeding more internally than my aching foot is externally.

Speaking of the foot…it’s healing (I think) but VERY SLOWLY. The bleeding hasn’t completely stopped, so I get to sit in my recliner for the bulk of the day with my foot elevated on pillows. It’s very painful but doesn’t even compare to the pain I feel in my heart from missing my husband.

Discouragement is the story of my days right now. I’m waiting for a breakthrough, because I feel everywhere I turn is defeat and disappointment. When is the breakthrough coming Lord? I’ve seen many miracles already as a result of Joel’s sudden death and Homegoing to Heaven. God is not surprised, and He’s been working deeply in the hearts of many of His children as a result of my precious husband being called Home at such a young age. I continue to pray Joel’s death will not be in vain and will produce tons of fruit and miracle upon miracle (maybe even some we won’t see this side of Heaven). But for now…we hurt…deeply.

I’m ready for some sense of “normal” to return to our lives. I feel I’m living in a state of limbo, because nothing is settled…my foot is still healing, I can’t return to work (due to the stupid foot), money decisions are in limbo (and fear wants to settle there quite often), plans for the future…yep…limbo. All my vacation and time off for the year is gone due to Joel’s death and my foot woes. I’m really trying not to dwell in this pit, because God is also being so generous and gracious to us.

We have been blessed beyond belief by friends, family, and strangers. We’ve received gifts of food, babysitting, money, gift cards, surprise presents in the mail, flowers, more food, projects completed around the home, visits by new friends, and lots of cards in the mail. There have been numerous other blessings too plentiful to name. I’m praying God allows the brightness of the blessings to cast out the shadow and darkness of the discouragement.

As I keep saying over and over and believe with every fiber of my being…God’s plan is ALWAYS better. Always. Knowing that and believing that doesn’t mean the pain of our reality doesn’t hurt. It does give me hope to cling to though, and that hope helps me to take the next step, and then the next…and the next…and the next…

God. Is. Still. Good.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

38 Days

38 Days. What’s the significance of 38 days anyway? It’s a little over a month. It’s less than the number of days and nights rain fell on the Earth during the days of Noah. It’s still quite a few days less than it takes to reach our next Christmas. So, what’s the big deal about 38 days?

It just happens to be the number of days you’ve lived in Heaven, my love.

It also happens to be the number of days

  • I’ve been a widow
  • I’ve slept in our bed without you
  • I’ve cried consecutively
  • I’ve worried over some element of my future (even though I’m trying really hard not to)
  • I’ve had to go without seeing a text message or phone call pop up from you on my cell
  • I haven’t been able to snuggle with you on the couch in the evening after putting the kids to bed
  • I’ve had to cancel another dream we shared together in our hearts or minds but never had the opportunity to fulfill
  • I’ve had to miss your warm embrace through your large teddy-bear-like hugs
  • I’ve had to go to bed without a goodnight kiss from you
  • I’ve had to wake up without hearing you say “Good morning sweetheart! How did you sleep?”
  • I’ve had to realize my life will never be the same again without you in it
  • I’ve had to parent our four youngest children alone
  • I’ve failed repeatedly at parenting our four youngest children alone
  • I’ve begged God to let me see a glimpse of you in my dreams
  • I’ve had something wonderful to share with you, but you’ve not been there to share it with
  • I’ve had to walk into our closet, and see your clothes hanging there…in the same places they’ve been for the previous 37 days
  • I’ve talked to you repeatedly, but you haven’t responded back
  • I’ve slept with your pillow in my arms
  • I’ve thought about how empty the rest of my life will feel without you in it
  • I’ve had to go without hearing you tell me you love me

Thirty-eight days…typically a rather insignificant amount of time. Until today. Today…38 days took on grand significance. Sadly, most of it brings on the tears. But…even so… #Godisstillgood